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Brad Stevens sends a clear message to his Celtics: ‘We’ve got to have a defensive DNA’ 04.17.14 at 9:30 am ET
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Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.

After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.

“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”

The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.

“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”

All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, a 118-102 defenseless loss to the playoff-bound Wizards, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.

“€œSo there’€™s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘€˜We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’€™ That is, we’€™ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’€™t think we made the strides that I would’€™ve liked to have made.”

Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.

“At halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’€™t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’€™s a good basketball team who’€™s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’€™ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Brandon Bass, NBA
Rajon Rondo wants a say in rebuilding of Celtics: ‘Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me’ 04.17.14 at 12:12 am ET
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Following a season-ending 118-102 loss to the playoff-bound Wizards at TD Garden, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo talked about what he’s learned from this 25-win season and how he can become a better leader. Rondo also acknowledged that he would like input on the make-up of the roster next season.

“Every team is different,” Rondo said. “This is a new [situation] with me being the only guy here back when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were here. [Roster rebuilding] isn’t new. I still think I have been involved. I was in trade talk myself. Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me, what he has planned and what he has in store for this team.

“Being a leader, I just have to do it more than talking.”

Asked if that means doing it more by example on and off the court, Rondo answered, “Correct.”

How will a 25-57 season drive him this offseason?

“Motivation for next year we have a lot to work on and I look forward to next year,” Rondo said. “A good group to play with and a lot of great guys a lot of young guys just trying to be better.”

Does he want to be back?

“Next question,” Rondo said, referring to comments he made a week earlier indicating he feels he is a part of the team’s future.

Rondo said he will not watch the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend. Instead Rondo maintains he looks forward to a summer of work as he continues to build his legs back to 100 percent, 15 months after ACL surgery on his right knee.

If he puts in the work, Rondo figures the rest of the team will follow.

‘€œIt shows the group of guys we have,” Rondo said. “It starts with Danny Ainge and it starts with Brad Stevens. We had guys like Chris Babbs and Chris Johnson to come help us and help brighten their future.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo,
D.J. Augustin leads Bulls past pesky, inspired Celtics 03.30.14 at 9:23 pm ET
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D.J. Augustin scored a career-high 33 points and drilled the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining to lift the Bulls over the Celtics, 107-103. Rajon Rondo led a balanced attack for the Celtics, with 17 points and 10 assists as six Boston players scored in double figures. Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger each had 16 for the Celtics, who fell to 23-50 on the season.

It marks just the sixth time in history the Celtics have had a 50-loss season, the last coming in Rondo’s rookie season of 2006-07 when the Celtics won just 24 games and lost 58.

In a game inspired by the memory of two Boston firefighters who perished in last week’s fire on Beacon Street, the Celtics and Bulls put on one of the most entertaining games of the season.

Before the game, the Celtics wore warmup shirts with the Boston Fire Department insignia on them. The coaches and non-uniformed staff wore the department patches on their suits.

As for the game, it featured 18 ties and 14 lead changes.

Green‘s 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter drew the Celtics to within two, 95-93. After a free throw gave the Bulls a three-point lead, Green’s three with 2:18 left tied the game for an 18th time.

Augustin’s three with 1:19 left put the Bulls up for good, 99-96. After a Celtics turnover, Augustin added a pair of free throws with 34.8 seconds left to seal the victory for the visitors.

The two teams will meet again Monday night, this time in Chicago, as the 41-32 Bulls look to improve their playoff standing in the Eastern Conference.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, D.J. Augustin, NBA
Celtics sunk by coming out party of Anthony Davis, drop fourth straight 03.16.14 at 8:51 pm ET
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Sunday night the Celtics proved they are nothing if not entertaining in this rebuilding season.

Former No. 1 pick Anthony Davis scored a career-high 40 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans a heart-pounding 121-120 overtime win over the Celtics in the Bayou Sunday night. Davis added 21 rebounds, the first 40-20 game in the history of the New Orleans franchise. Jared Sullinger, who helped sparked a late fourth quarter rally with a 3-pointer, missed a trey with 11 seconds remaining that would have given the Celtics the lead.

The last two minutes of regulation featured a frantic Boston rally and several wild sequences.

Kris Humphries forced the overtime when he took an inbounds pass from Rajon Rondo and drained a 20-foot turnaround jumper at the regulation buzzer. Jeff Green matched his season high with 39 points while Humphries had another double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Green was fouled in the act of taking a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds remaining and made all three free throws to tie the game, 110-110 before Anthony Davis drilled a jumper that appeared to give New Orleans the win with 1.1 seconds left in regulation.

Down one, the Celtics had a chance to win the game after winning a key jump ball with under 20 seconds left but Avery Bradley dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds, setting the stage for the frantic final sequence.

The Celtics lost their fourth straight and fell to 22-45 on the season.

The Celtics scored 39 points in the second quarter to take a 64-57 halftime lead. Leading the way in the second quarter was Green, who hit two threes and led Boston with 12 points in the stanza.

The Celtics led 66-57 on a Brandon Bass dunk with 10:40 left in the third quarter. The Celtics were outscored 27-18 in the final 10 minutes of the quarter and went into the fourth quarter tied, 84-84.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, New Orleans Pelicans,
Rajon Rondo appreciates Wyc Grousbeck sticking his neck out for him 03.15.14 at 2:09 pm ET
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The debate over the long-term future of Rajon Rondo in Boston will seemingly continue as long as he’s in a Celtics uniform. But one thing that can’t be denied is Rondo’s appreciation of those who have his back in turbulent times, led by the man who cuts his paycheck.

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told the Boston Globe this week that despite all of the rumors and speculation on the future of the tempestuous point guard, Rondo remains the leader of the franchise going forward.

What did that mean to Rondo?

“It means a lot, especially coming from the head guy,” Rondo said after Friday’s loss to the Suns. “With all the rumors swirling, the criticism that I was having throughout the past couple weeks, he stuck his neck out. He didn’t have to say anything, but he did. I’ve talked to Wyc since then. Everything is what it’s supposed to be.”

Here is what Grousbeck told the Boston Globe in a story that reflected on the rebuilding season of 2013-14:

“[Rondo is] loved right here, from my seat on the court,” the owner said. “I love the guy. I love his championship ring when he was the young kid. I love his growth. It reminds me of Paul Pierce. Growing from the moments in his younger days and making progress toward being an all-time Celtic and a leader. I am always hopeful that a guy like that is going to stay around.”

Rondo will enter the final year of his contract next season, in which he will make $12.9 million.

Earlier this season, Rondo said he would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Celtics but, at the same time, indicated an interest to test free agent waters. Rondo signed a five-year, $55 million extension at the start of the 2009-10 season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo, Wyc Grousbeck
Avery Bradley returns ‘rusty’ and hungers for more playing time 03.15.14 at 12:31 pm ET
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Brad Stevens made it perfectly clear before Friday’s game against Phoenix that he would ease Avery Bradley back into the mix after a 13-game absence due to a sprained right ankle. Bradley actually played nearly 17 minutes, including a key stretch in the team’s 12-0 spurt that gave them a short-lived lead in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 87-80 loss to the Suns at TD Garden.

Bradley scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the floor but admitted that he was rusty trying to get back into an offensive rhythm.

“My shot was rusty, but you still can play hard on the defensive end and that’€™s what I try to do,” Bradley said. “I try to go out there and lift our intensity and try to get the guys going, that’€™s my role on this team.’€

When Bradley was out on the floor, it marked just the seventh time this season he and Rajon Rondo, the projected starting backcourt, had been available to coach Brad Stevens.

“Hopefully we’€™ll get to see that quite a bit in the last month here,” Stevens said. “Knock on wood, because they haven’€™t been able to play much together over the first four years they’€™ve been together. I think it’€™s really a duo that you would think would complement each other very well based on the strengths on both ends of the court. Hopefully we’€™ll see that again with a healthy month left in the season.”

“He looked well,” added Rondo. “He didn’€™t play or practice at all in a month. So, for him to get out there, I know he missed a couple shots, but for the most part, my main concern was his lateral movements, as far as the ankle, and his defense looked great tonight.

“Our time will come. I’€™ve missed [games], he’€™s missed [games]. Hopefully we can get it together and we’€™ll both be out there playing and healthy.”

Bradley also made note that he will be taping his ankles more often to prevent injury. Bradley said before the game that he feels not taping his ankles this season led to the unfortunate string of injuries that have sidelined him for two significant stretches this season.

After the game, he was just grateful that he made it through his first game back.

‘€œI feel fine, Bradley said. “It’€™s a little sore but I’€™m going to ice it and I’€™ll feel fine [this weekend]. “For me, on the defensive end and cuts, that’€™s what gets me going and I know what kind of player I am and I know it starts on the defensive end first for me.

‘€œOf course, as a competitor you want to go out there and help your team, but at the same time I have to be smart and the coaches, [Brad Stevens] knows better than me and he knows I have to get back in the rhythm. I was a little rusty and so he has to limit my minutes and he told me that before the game but I didn’€™t know how many minutes I was going to play and I really didn’€™t care.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Celtics eclipsed by Suns late in return of Avery Bradley 03.14.14 at 9:52 pm ET
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Alex Len’s three-point play with 54.1 seconds left broke an 80-80 tie and lifted the Suns over the Celtics, 87-80, Friday night at TD Garden. Kris Humphries led the Celtics with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The Celtics lost their third straight and fell to 22-44 on the season.

Cold shooting from the field put the the Celtics in an early hole, falling behind by as many as 11 in the opening minutes of the second quarter. But strong rebounding, led by Kris Humphries, allowed Boston to work their way back in, cutting the halftime deficit to two, 46-44.

The Celtics again went cold from the floor in the third quarter, making just four of their 20 shots from the field. As a result, Phoenix grabbed a 61-53 lead with 3:24 left in the third. But the Celtics again showed their resiliency, cutting to the deficit to just four, 64-60 heading into the fourth.

The Celtics continued that momentum by scoring the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cap an 11-0 run and grab a 69-64 lead, matching their biggest lead of the game.

Phoenix came back with the next six points to take a 70-69 lead. The Celtics led 78-75 before the Suns scored five straight, including the go-ahead basket, a turnaround jumper by Markeiff Morris with 2:30 left, putting Phoenix up, 80-78. Jeff Green‘s two free throws with 2:02 left tied the game again, 80-80.

After Len’s three-point play, the Celtics could not get off a shot close to the basket and the Suns put away the game with two breakaway layups.

The Celtics are off Saturday and begin a brief two-game road trip Sunday evening in New Orleans. They play in Dallas Monday night before returning home to play the Miami Heat Wednesday night at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Cold feet: The Celtics shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the first half, making just 18-of-48 shots, including 2-of-12 from long range. Good defense and Phoenix sloppiness kept the Celtics in it, as Boston trailed by just two, 46-44 at the half. It didn’t get much better in the third quarter as the Celtics shot just 20 percent on 4-of-20 shooting.

Gone fishing: There are games where Brandon Bass can take over and find his shots in the paint and under the glass seemingly at will. Then there’s nights like Friday. He started but never got into a rhythm, scoring just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, playing 21 minutes. Part of this was due to the fact that coach Brad Stevens elected to go with a smaller, three-guard lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Chris Johnson for the better parts of the second and third quarters. Throw in the continued emergence of Kelly Olynyk and guards Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey and there was little time left for Bass.

Green-out: Like Bass, Jeff Green can look like a world-beater one game and come out with a dud the next, like Friday. He had just nine points in 36 minutes on 2-of-14 shooting.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bradley’s back: Avery Bradley returned to game action for the first time since injuring his ankle Feb. 9 against Dallas. The team’s shutdown defender came off the bench with 3:24 left in the first quarter. With 5:09 left in the third, Bradley showed his offensive skills, getting into traffic, knocking down a 10-footer and drawing the foul for a three-point play. He finished with nine points in 17 minutes.

On the rebound: The Celtics attacked the glass with authority in the first half outrebounding the Suns, 27-24. Leading the way with six in the first half was Kris Humphries, who grabbed six of his xx for the game in the opening half. Humphries finished with his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 11 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.

Balancing the scales: The only player not to get into the scoring column in the first half was Chris Babb, the undrafted rookie out of Iowa State who was signed to his second 10-day contract on Monday. Even Joel Anthony got into the mix for the first time since playing four minutes against Golden State on March 5 and scoring two points in the first half, his first points since netting four against Atlanta on Feb. 26.

Rondo passes knee test: With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, Rondo drove to the left side of the basket for one of his patented dishes under the basket but he lost his footing, slipping to the court. His knee was protected by the black ACL brace he wears and he remained in the game and played the remainder of the third quarter with no apparent ill effects.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA, Phoenix Suns
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